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Pesah U 2023

Join us for teaching sessions from Dr. David Bernat, Rav Shai Cherry, and Hazzan Howard Glantz on a variety of Passover topics! 

Click here to RSVP!

On Wednesday, March 22, Hazzan Glantz will lead a Passover Tune-up that will cover many of the texts, songs, and traditions of the Passover Seder. It will begin at 6:15 PM in the Strauss Chapel at AJ. Evening minyan is at 7:00 PM and if there is interest, Hazzan Glantz will continue when services end. This class is available in person at AJ or via Zoom. If you'd like to attend, send him an email at This session is for AJ members only.

On Sunday, March 26, join us for breakfast and two sessions of learning. Breakfast will begin at 9:30 AM and sessions will begin at 10:15 AM. Two separate time slots will offer a choice of two sessions each. Rav Shai will teach “Secrets of the Haggadah” and “Women of the Haggadah.” Dr. Bernat will teach “What’s Love Got to Do With It? Song of Songs as Erotic Poetry for Pesah” during both sessions. Sunday's sessions are free of charge for AJ members and $18 per person for non-members.

9:30 AM: Breakfast

10:15 AM: Session 1
Option 1: Rav Shai Cherry: "Secrets of the Haggadah"
The Hagaddah is a palace, and most of us don’t know each room equally well. Rav Shai will guide you into some lesser known rooms and some better known rooms that have hidden passages.

Option 2: David Bernat PhD: "What’s Love Got to Do With It? Song of Songs as Erotic Poetry for Pesah"     
In the Talmud, Rabbi Akiba labels the recitation of Song of Songs in the Tavern a grave sin. His “rant” is based on the developing Jewish [and Christian] notion that Song of Songs is not about human sexuality, but rather the love between the people and God, a belief that likely accounts for the assignment of this Megillah for reading on Passover.  That said, his warning would only have been necessary if Jews were indeed treating Song of Songs as a bawdy poem suitable for the barroom. Our Pesah U session will look at the how and why of Song of Songs as Biblical love poetry, in comparison to erotic music produced Ancient Babylonians, Jewish scholars during the Spanish Golden Age, and contemporary music that draws on language from the Song of Songs.

11:00 AM: Break

11:15 AM: Session 2
Option 1: Rav Shai Cherry: "Women of the Haggadah"
Besides “Who knows four? Four are the matriarchs!”, where are the rest of the women in the Haggadah? Rav Shai will do a gendered survey of the Passover Script revealing the central role women played in the both the Exodus and the Haggadah.

Option 2: David Bernat PhD: "What’s Love Got to Do With It? Song of Songs as Erotic Poetry for Pesah" 
See description above.   


Rabbi Shai Cherry has been a Jewish educator since returning from a year in Israel after dropping out of the University of Pennsylvania. That was 1988. In 2019, Rav Shai found his way back to the Philadelphia area to become our rabbi and chief educational officer. Rav Shai eventually finished college and went to graduate school to study Jewish Thought at Brandeis University. After four years of teaching at Vanderbilt University, Rav Shai did a Google search for “Hebrew Immersion Preschool,” and he and Dr. Rebecca Cherry enrolled their daughter, Tehila, in one of the very few hits—Temple Beth Am in Los Angeles. Those four years in Los Angeles were spent finishing his first book, Torah through Time:  Understanding Bible Commentary from the Rabbinic Period to Modern Times, teaching at UCLA, and attending the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies. The Cherrys also had a child or two. From 2009-2019, the Cherrys lived in San Diego where Rebecca was a pediatric gastroenterologist and began utilizing the power of medical hypnosis. Rav Shai continued teaching in academic and communal settings while working on his second book, Coherent Judaism: Constructive Theology, Creation, and Halakhah. In the summer of 2019, Rav Shai, Rebecca and their two younger children, Rina and Shalev, drove across the country to join the AJ family.  Rebecca has opened a private practice in Elkins Park, Rina is in her senior year at Cheltenham High, and Shalev is entering eighth grade at Barrack Hebrew Academy. Tehila graduated from Temple Beth Am preschool and, subsequently, Barnard College in 2022.  She is currently putting her Environmental Sustainability degree to good use repairing trails with the National Park Service. During COVID-19, Rav Shai relented to his family’s incessant demands for a dog. Her name is Zara.

Dr. David Bernat is a consultant in Outreach and Development with JALSA, The Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action. He has a Ph.D. in Biblical and Ancient Near Eastern Studies from Brandeis, is the author of Sign of the Covenant: Circumcision in the Priestly Tradition and co-editor of Religion and Violence: The Biblical Heritage. Dr. Bernat has held faculty positions at UMass Amherst and Wellesley College, and regularly leads adult education tours to Israel with an historical and archaeological focus.

Sat, April 1 2023 10 Nisan 5783